If you live in the Netherlands and hail from anywhere outside the European Union or Turkey, you’re likely familiar with the term “inburgering.” If you plan to stay here for a while, it’s a word that will cause you a substantial amount of grief….if it hasn’t already.
There are many blog post and articles floating around on the internet regarding the notorious Dutch immigration exam and how difficult it can be to pass it. My goal with this one is to take a look at the exam’s history and the why it should be either radically altered or phased out entirely.
But first, let’s take a quick look at the wheres, whens, whys and hows behind the birth of inburgering.
First, Here’s Some Historical Background….
The test dates back to the mid 2000s. It was drafted by a Dutch politician named Rita Verdonk. At the time, she served as the Minister for Integration and Immigration. It will probably come as no surprise that she also founded a right-wing political party called “Proud of the Netherlands” in 2007. Verdonk was what you might call “controversial” during her years in public office. She butted heads with everybody from various members of her own party to Mark Rutte, the current Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Here’s a photo of Ms. Verdonk. I bet she’s a lot of fun at parties and has a wonderful singing voice.
Never a fan of immigrants, Verdonk devoted a substantial chunk of her career to drafting policies designed to make their lives in the Netherlands difficult. Up until then, the country’s immigration policies were, admittedly, a little too relaxed. Verdonk quickly went about changing all of that. Among other things, she drafted propositions that would have substantially altered marital requirements for immigrants (but they were shot down). In one bizarre incident during her days as a minister, she went after 26,000 asylum seekers that had been living in the country for over five years. Rather than grant them amnesty since they had arrived prior to the implementation of a new law, she chose to deal with each case on an individual basis, creating a gigantic bureaucratic nightmare for both them and her staff.
But the crown jewel during her time as minister was the inburgeren exam, the centerpiece of what is now known as “The Dutch Law on Integration.” Verdonk rolled out her proposal in the wake of the high-profile assassinations of filmmaker Theo van Gogh and the right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn. Both had drawn massive amounts of media attention for their controversial stances on Muslims living in the Netherlands. Their murders ignited a wave of anti-Islamic hysteria and xenophobia in the country in the early and mid 2000s, which made Verdonk’s work pretty easy. Despite immense criticism in the national press, and plenty of skepticism from politicians all over the country, her proposal was approved by Parliament in 2006. The exam became a requirement for immigrants in early 2007.